Aerospace leaders say workforce, regulations main concerns

Representatives of 13 aerospace manufacturing companies that operate in Skagit County in Washington State recently met at the Port of Skagit to discuss how to promote a robust and dynamic local aerospace industry, now and into the future.

The roundtable discussion, moderated by Executive Director Patsy Martin of the port, revealed several areas of agreement:

• The companies need a ready supply of skilled workers with a good work ethic, such as machinists, welders, equipment operators and engineers.

• Overaggressive regulation and difficult permitting make it hard to do business and can discourage businesses from expanding or locating at the port.

• The state workers’ compensation system needs reform.

• On the positive side, Skagit County’s great location and quality of life are strong selling points when recruiting workers and companies from outside the area, the leaders noted. Others assets include manageable traffic, a relatively low crime rate and the cost of living.

The Aerospace Roundtable at the Port of Skagit drew representatives form 13 local companies.

Ideas for addressing the workforce issues included establishing a job bank for Skagit County manufacturers to help them publicize available positions and creating a system for touring local school children through manufacturing plants so they can learn about the career possibilities in those companies. Several participants also mentioned that it would be handy for them if a metal coatings plant that could apply finishes to their products were located in Skagit County.

The session also included a workshop, presented by Edmonds Community College, describing the opportunities for aerospace suppliers to diversify into manufacturing medical devices.

The event was co-sponsored by the Port of Skagit, the City of Mount Vernon and the Economic Development Association of Skagit County. Approximately 35 people attended.

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